The madness of being a rock…

I’m not sure where this post will end up. I have a feeling I will spill more onto this page than people might want to hear. My intention for this blog is to talk about my journey as an artist but a person can’t do that without spilling their guts about other aspects of life because an artist can’t create art without life getting on the page or into the paint or ink or whatever medium is used.

I started this bear over two weeks ago. IMG_1307

About a week ago, on February 23rd, I finished him.

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On February 22nd, while waiting on portions of my bear to dry, I read an article, Creative Tarot Journaling Made Easy. I decided to select a prompt and give it a try.

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After completing the bear, I decided to create my alternative version to him in my own style.

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This is still a work in progress. It is taking much longer to complete than anticipated.

There is a story between all these layers. I can’t talk about these three pieces without filling in the story which exists between the layers. The layers represent the many layers which are occurring in my life. Mixed media art or any art for that matter isn’t just laying down layers of paint and then creating an image on the page. Every piece of art, no matter the medium, has the artist’s life interwoven within it. Unless you are an artist it might be difficult to comprehend exactly what I’m trying to express here. I’ll try but I’m afraid I might fail at really helping non-artists (if there really are any non-artists, everyone is creative in their own way) to understand.

I have had to learn to give myself some space in regards to working on my projects. What that means is, if I’m feeling resistance then I back off. Resistance comes in many forms and sometimes it is difficult to know the source of the resistance. I have to discover what that source is in order to move forward. Then, sometimes, moving forward takes time because there maybe a need to process something before I can release it into my artwork.

On February 14th, I heard some not so good news. It wasn’t awful but it has created a bit of friction emotionally for me. The news is that the income I’m receiving in my current job isn’t enough. This has triggered a return of anxiety which so far is manageable. That anxiety is rooted in varying aspects of my past, from childhood, to several relationships the worst being the last relationship I had, to fighting breast cancer, to being laid off and to the last of having trouble just getting a job. Knowing I need to go back to job hunting is also triggering depression. This has also taken the joy out of the job I’ve been doing. I thought it would be enough. To find out it isn’t has not been easy to accept.

The bear is my version of Tam’s Compassionate Bear lesson in Life Book 2018. The Universe has a way of timing things perfectly, for this lesson could not have come at a better time. It reminds me to be compassionate with myself, especially now after hearing the news and each time I apply for any jobs that are posted.  It is difficult to remain compassionate as the weeks go by without any calls for interviews. It is even more difficult to not allow emotions to surface relating to not being good enough. When I wrote in the previous paragraph that the job wasn’t enough, it made me realize that what I heard when I received the news was that I wasn’t good enough. Even though I know this is not true, old emotions arise from my past when circumstances made me feel that way.

There are so many emotions being triggered right now, some of them can be overwhelming. I could have written so many things on my Compassionate Bear and all of them would have felt fake even though they might be true. The one thing that felt true and seemed to put my unrest at ease was “You are loved.”

I posted this bear on the Life Book Facebook group and realized when I looked at the picture that he also looks a bit like a mouse. An interesting combination because though mice seem small and delicate they are quick and cunning. Bears may appear slow but they are strong and dangerous.

These are things I didn’t think about until just now, which is why I love to write about my art and my life together. I find insights like these which can help me deal with “life”. I have always felt an affinity towards bears because of my last name. There could not be two more opposite creatures, the bear and the mouse, and yet somehow they seem to fit together within my Gemini personality. I will be the first to admit that I have opposing forces strong within me which can make me appear to be a very complicated person. This might be why my individual style seems to be focused around mandalas which help me combine these forces into a central focus.

The hard part the past few weeks has been to not let the news suck me down into the emotional turmoil I felt for a year and a half after hearing the news of the workforce reduction I was caught up in. They don’t like using the words lay off anymore. Like a change of wording can make a person feel any better about such a situation. No it isn’t for the people being laid off to feel better. It is to make those making the decision to lay off workers feel better or not so bad. Okay, I went there. I didn’t mean to go there. But it hurts. I’m angry still after two years. And the news just reawakened all of those feelings.

Consequently, working on my art has been in small doses. I work on something for a bit, like on the bear, I would do a layer and then let it dry. Most times I let it dry far longer than it needed to. Meaning it was dry long before I returned to it.

During one of the breaks, the choice to do the Tarot drawing and then an art journal page on it was a good choice.IMG_1329

The prompt I chose was important to me. During a time when I was not feeling happy, I needed a reminder of what does make me happy. I don’t want to say I was surprised by the cards I pulled. Rather, I was, intrigued by what they confirmed.

My intent was to pull just one card but as things often happen with me, my intent isn’t what needed to happen. The Universe took over and I ended up with two cards in my hand. When I flipped them over at the same time, the first thing I noticed was they were both Major Arcana cards, IV The Emperor, and XVII The Star. I won’t go into my complete reading of these cards, some of it is too personal. I will tell you a bit about it because I feel it is important in regards to my current situation and my art journey.

What I came to understand from the cards is my happiness comes from balance, stability, reason, logic, harmony and hope. I put these things in overlapping large circles on my page because they all influence each other in one way or another. I used to listen to people who said I ‘think’ too much. When they would say this, I took it as a bad thing, and that my reasoning, and my logic were bad parts of myself which I needed to tone down or find a way to not rely on so much and learn to be less of these things in my life. Consequently, I fought against them. I would use logic and reasoning to understand something and then I would try and use a not so logical way of overcoming a situation or problem. Until I did this Tarot drawing, I didn’t realize how much logic and reasoning brought me happiness.  I also didn’t realize how much logic and reasoning also inspired hope.

I found it interesting to also note that my 2018 word ‘balance’ showed up. It makes sense that harmony and stability are part of my happiness. Those words just seem to go along with balance for me this year and have shown up in previous artwork since I chose the word balance.

What this reading did for me was tell me to stop fighting against the things I do naturally. To allow my instincts to guide me. I have always known that when I’m faced with a challenge my first instinct is to let logic and reasoning take over. I need to understand the situation and the best way I know how to do that is by use of logic and reasoning. Fighting against it means I throw myself into turmoil which just amplifies the emotions which I relate to stress. I end up feeling like my life is beyond my control.

The smaller circles on this page represent elements in my life that make me happy. I have a few more things to add to this page which will be other elements which can influence my happiness. They will end up being words that float around in the white space.

I enjoyed this exercise using Tarot cards and I may do more of them.

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This is my current work in progress. It is my alternative piece for the Compassionate Bear lesson. When I started it, all I knew was I would start it using the grid method I use for drawing mandalas and at its center I wanted a heart. The heart would represent the ‘You are loved’ statement on the bear. What I like about this design is I can add writing around the design if I feel the need to do so.

All of these pieces are done with Prang watercolor paint. The yellow however is Daler Rowney watercolor. I ran out of the Prang yellow so I substituted a Daler Rowney yellow from one of the yellows in the Simply watercolor tube set I have.

I’ll briefly describe the process for each:

Compassionate Bear: sketched in pencil on watercolor paper. I wanted a happy multi-colored bear so I used purples, blues, blue-green, yellow, magenta, green and white watercolor. India ink and dip pen for the black sketchy outline and marks, and tried some India ink using a brush for shading which was a bit tricky and I ended up layering over some of it with more watercolor because I didn’t like how it turned out. The white is either acrylic white paint or Uni-ball Signo broad gel pen.

What Makes Me Happy?:  Tombow markers for the title lettering. Using pencil and compass I created the circles, then Prang watercolor to fill them in and Tombow markers around the edges to define the edges better. Uni-ball AIR black pen for the words inside the circles. I’ll use the same pen when I add any words or phrases in the background.

Alternative to Compassionate Bear: using painters tape, taped the watercolor paper down to hardboard, thoroughly wet the paper and randomly added Prang watercolor paint, yellow, orange, red, red-orange and magenta. Let it dry completely. Using pencil, compass, and ruler lightly drew in a mandala grid. Pigma micron pen, permanently drew in the shapes I wanted that I had drawn in pencil in the grid, then added in patterns within the shapes using the same micron pen (size 01 or 03). I erased any pencil lines I didn’t want or need anymore. I am currently at the stage of using Prisma Colored Pencils to add shading and color to the various patterns. This always takes the longest.

As I stated earlier, I may add some writing around the design to support the ‘compassionate’ nature of this piece. I don’t really plan these pieces, they develop as I work on them. They sort of let me know what needs to be done next. Sometimes the next step doesn’t always make sense to me and I fight against it, like the blue I am adding now. It didn’t make sense when I felt the need to do it but somehow it works, even though there isn’t blue anywhere else in the piece.

I’m currently in an emotional place which feels like I’m struggling both artistically and in every day life and work. I try to tell myself that I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now but it feels like a platitude. I feel like I’ll never get ahead and the reason for that is years and years of neglect and wasting the resources I had available to me. I would say more but I’m afraid I would sound like a whining brat and that isn’t where I am right now, or I  hope I’m not.

I guess what I’m trying to say is for some reason the Universe feels the need to put me through this turmoil when all I want in my life is peace and harmony. What I’m thinking right now is maybe what I’m supposed to learn is peace and harmony are always present even in the turmoil. Am I able to be that rock in the middle of a raging river and let the turmoil flow around me, letting the friction shape me into what I need to be even at the risk of being unseated? Ever wonder how the rocks got there in the first place? Some of them look like they were just plunked down in the middle of the river, while others look like they grew right out of the riverbed. In school, we learn they were there all along, appearing slowly over time as the water slowly eroded the soil and gravel around them.

I sometimes wonder how many artists really think about how their lives appear in their artwork or how their artwork helps them to understand their lives. Or do they paint or draw because if they don’t they will go mad?

 

 

Garden Fairy from Life Book 2018 week 1

I chose to take a slightly different approach to Tam’s lesson for Life Book 2018 week 1 Tending to Your Dreams (Garden Fairy). I took some cues from her lesson and incorporated them into my page trying to make it my own.

Her lesson was about what to leave behind and what to bring forward from the previous year or years. I never really thought about it before other than, I just wanted the new year to be better than the year before. Especially if the year before had been a particularly rough year. If the previous year had been a really good one then I would just hope it would continue. Purposefully looking at what had been in my life and making a thoughtful choice on what to bring forward or leave behind had not been a process for me.  So, this was new to me.

With that said, I found this lesson interesting in that respect. Last year started out rough but did get better a little over half way through the year. I started to see changes I never expected but was very grateful to have happen. I chose to approach this lesson with care, thoughtfulness and purpose, therefore it took a great deal of time. I’m glad it did. If I learned nothing else from this lesson, I have learned I can create a piece of art that is loaded with personal meaning for me.

I made some other decisions. The first one was to not “copy” Tam’s drawings or even her techniques. When I copy a lesson as close to exacting as I can get with the materials I have, which is what I did last year, I discovered when I try to do my own artwork I have no idea what to do. This is because I’m not really learning other than I can copy someone’s work. I needed to allow myself to experiment on my own and learn from my own mistakes. The good I did learn from copying was just seeing how different products worked so I had an idea of how to use them. I just wasn’t learning how to incorporate colors and elements that worked for me.

The next thing I chose to do was to try working mostly in one medium. I know this is a  mixed media lesson but working with a lot of different mediums confuses my learning process. I’m not learning what a particular medium is capable of doing. I read an article about the best way to learn art and the different mediums is to focus on one medium at a time. Not only will it help with learning what that particular medium can do all on its own but integrating that learning is usually faster. Then I can switch to a different medium once I reach a level I am comfortable with and feel ready to move on. I’m fascinated with watercolor so I chose this as my main medium for this lesson.

The next decision was to allow my intuition to come forward to inform me of what elements I wanted on my page. I chose elements that would support the choices of what I wanted to bring forward or work on this year. I had already chosen the word BALANCE as my year word to focus on what I needed in my life. I incorporated the Yin Yang symbol to represent balance. I not only want a balance of my light and dark sides/nature, I want balance in all things in my life. It felt appropriate to place the symbol on my Elfin girl’s forehead located just above the third eye, to remind me I need balance not just in my thoughts but also in mental, emotional and spiritual realms.

In my meditation at the beginning of the year a dragon appeared. I understood what the dragon represented, strength, cunning and perseverance. These three things brought me out of a very rough period in my life and I wanted… needed to bring these things forward.

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This was the beginning of my sketch for the lesson. The Elfin girl just appeared as I worked on drawing my girl. The dragon took some time to figure out which I wrote about in my previous post. I wanted something to represent the garden she is tending but the flowers didn’t feel right.

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I erased the flowers and thought about what else I wanted to bring forward. I draw mandalas when I feel the need to become centered. I definitely wanted to continue this practice but I also wanted to incorporate them into my artwork. It seemed right to include one on this page.

I wanted something to represent harmony and happiness which is something I really need to manifest in my life. Tulips are my favorite flower. After rescuing some tulip bulbs that had been accidentally dug up by someone repairing our fence in our complex, I thought a couple of them would fit well not only in representing harmony and happiness but to honor those that were rescued.

I added some clouds to represent what I wanted to let go of. I had written in them those negative things that had been a major consumption of my energies last year. Then erased them but chose to keep the clouds. Too often, I suppress the negative emotions trying to forget they exist. I needed a reminder that I choose to let them go and not suppress them thus I chose to keep the clouds.

My ugly stage always begins with the skin tones. The skin tones never look right until I add hair color. I don’t have skin tone in my watercolors which means I have to mix it. My skin tones never come out the same but I’m okay with that. This is my first couple of layers.

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I tried to take pictures periodically as I progress with my painting with watercolors. It is obvious I missed taking some photos of a few layers but I did most of what you see in the picture below, in one sitting after the first layers above had dried.

I took my time letting some layers dry while I worked in other areas. I added some more shading first, then the colors to the eyes and mouth, then went back to add some more color to the skin by adding some yellow. The last thing I did was the hair. It was tricky. I started with red, blue and purple, doing a wet on wet technique to let it blend together and adding layer onto layer to get the color a bit brighter. After the hair dried I added some black layered on top, adding water to thin it out in places so the colors underneath would show through. In the skin tone I added some purple, blues and pinks. Purple and blue to add depth to the shading and pink to give depth to the lighter areas, along with a bit more yellow. The trick is to try and not make her look jaundiced.

I worked on the dragon next and chose a bit of turquoise green, adding yellow for highlights and some blues to darken the shaded areas. I let this all dry.

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In this next picture, I worked on the center of the mandala. I wanted it to have a bit of a gem appearance. Then I added the sun, some light blue for the sky, and light green for the ground. I chose not to do any collage but I wanted a layered look so I took some stencils and chose two different colors of blue (yes, watercolors), used a makeup sponge and dabbed on the colors through my stencils. I chose a darker green for the grass area and used another stencil. I added some light grey shading to the clouds. I let the paint dry between layers, and added some red and bit of brown to the sun to give it some texture too.

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Below is my finished page. I added some yellow to the clouds, a bit more grey and some blue through a stencil, then some white acrylic paint over top the clouds after the watercolor was dry. The black dots were made through a stencil using black watercolor paint. I had a homemade dragonfly stencil and dabbed purple, magenta and red watercolor paint through it. All the stencils I used on this page, except two (the two in the grass) were handmade by me including the flower.  I chose these because I wanted more layers on my background. I didn’t outline them or add any detail to them because I wanted them to blend into the background.

I painted my mandala and flowers with watercolors. Once all the watercolor paint was completely dry, I decided to use some different mediums for the details.

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I’m not adept enough with watercolor yet to make fine details which is why I said I would work MOSTLY in one medium. I knew for the details I would use other tools, other mediums. This is what I used:

  1. Prisma colored pencils, in the hair, over the watercolor paint in the mandala, flowers, dragon, clouds and her face.
  2. Gel pens, black and white, for some of the outlining and highlights.
  3. Acrylic paint for highlights, the swan, the white beads and a bit in the Yin Yang symbol.

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I didn’t mention the swan. I decided to add the swan. It has always been a favorite of mine and one of the first things I learned to draw by using the number 2 to start the sketch. Swans have always held a fascination for me. They represent grace and when I learned they mate for life, they became a symbol for me in regards to the kind of love I wanted to attract in my life.

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I am thrilled with my page. It has depth of meaning for me. It encompasses all that I hope for this year and in coming years. Most of all, it has shown me I am growing as an artist.

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I wanted to write about my experiences in between the different layers when I decided to make my own gelli plate but I’m going to save that for my next post. I think this one needs to be devoted to this project. She was such a pleasure to create. She deserves to have this post all to herself.

I have never spent so much time on one piece of art. At no time did I feel like I needed to rush so I could complete it. As I watched the weeks go by, as each week’s lesson was posted and others completing them within days, sometimes hours of them going up, I was satisfied to still be working on week one. Seeing what everyone else was creating just wets my appetite for the coming lessons which I know I will enjoy. Hopefully in the same way I enjoyed this one.

I did not feel compelled to start another lesson, although reading all the posts about one lesson using a gelli plate and people deciding whether to buy one or make one inspired me to consider what I would do. I then played around with options while I waited for layers to dry or during periods when I didn’t have time to work on my Garden Fairy between chores, work and just life but did have short periods to do other things. I will write about that soon in my next post.

Working this way was so very relaxing, no pressure, no guilt about not “keeping up”, even my inner critic was peaceful for the most part. She did surface occasionally, like during the ugly stages, or when I thought I had totally messed up when trying to add the swan.

Now that she is done, I’m looking forward to the next lesson and and can’t wait to see what develops from it.

I can’t stop…

I’ve been working on my drawing for Life Book 2018 week one “Garden Fairy” lesson with Tamara Laporte. I wanted to go in my own direction with this which is why I’m taking my time. I am so in love with my first sketch I wasn’t sure if I wanted to paint it. This is my first sketch, which was done on watercolor paper.

IMG_1267If you read my previous post you would know I was working on trying to draw the dragon. I couldn’t get the body right so I chose to have him leaning over her shoulder. When I added his scales is when I finally connected with him. As I drew the girl, she just seemed to call out for elfin ears.

The above picture shows how I roughly sketched in flowers but they didn’t feel right to me. This lesson is about considering what we want to leave behind and what we want to bring forward with us. Taking this into consideration I knew I needed to change the flowers, so I worked more on my drawing.

I love drawing mandalas. Therefore, I want to continue bringing mandalas into my artwork so I erased the flowers and added a mandala. I have plans for the center of my mandala.

Tulips are my favorite flower. Last year, I saved some bulbs when some work was being done which caused several bulbs to be dug up. The person doing the work in our complex didn’t seem to care and left them all lying exposed so I gathered them up and replanted them. I wanted to honor this and it felt right to include a couple tulips in my sketch.

IMG_1271This is where I stopped while I considered what I wanted to do. Since my sketch was drawn on watercolor paper, I didn’t want to waste it with a graphite drawing so I decided to see if I could recreate it on a lighter weight mixed media paper. The next picture is my attempt to do just that.

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She isn’t exactly like my first drawing. She is close enough and I think she came out rather well. I’ll work on her some more later. For now, this is where I stopped with my second drawing.

I can’t stop drawing her. I pulled out my sketchbook where I was working out the drawing of my dragon and drew another sketch of her. This time with a worried or concerned look on her face. I’m trying to learn different facial expressions and since I seemed to be obsessed with drawing her it made sense to try a different expression.IMG_1275

Then I took out my other journal where I not only draw but also write. A few days prior, I had put down some backgrounds using acrylic paint, mostly just using a card or palette knife to scrape the paint around. I had no idea what I would put on these backgrounds. In my previous post, I wrote about the first background I worked on where I created a mandala.  IMG_1258

On another page, I tried creating a mandala using the dot technique with paint but that didn’t come out so well. I wasn’t going to show it here but after thinking about it, I decided to show it. First, because I wouldn’t be authentic as an artist to just show the “good” stuff. If someone reading this is struggling with their art, they should see that we all struggle and have moments where what we work on doesn’t come out the way we want it to or even passably good. And, that is OKAY. So here it is, including my thoughts I had put on the page.

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I might get better with practice, and maybe this would have looked better with a black background which is what I have seen in all the dot techniques used to create mandalas or other dot artwork. Creating dots is harder than it looks. I used different sized brush handles. Even so, one has to remember that with each dot created if you don’t replenish the paint between each dot the subsequent dot will be smaller. If you don’t use the same “pressure” the dots can be different sizes. I didn’t expect perfection and knew this would take some practice. I also learned that maybe I should also create guidelines, at least in the beginning until I become better at it. For now, this isn’t something I want to pursue, even with this small sampling I realized I just don’t enjoy making dot after dot after dot, which might be why I’m not a fan of stippling, though I do use it occasionally.

A day or so ago, I drew another one of my elfin girls on the third page. I drew her in pencil first, and then I went over the pencil with an Elegant Writer pen meant for calligraphy. In my testing of my pens to see if they would bleed when wet, I found I loved the effect when the ink from this pen became wet. I wanted to play around with this. Here is the results. I added a bit of white to her eyes and for highlights but other than that, the shading is from using a small wet brush to make the ink from the Elegant Writer bleed. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE HOW THIS TURNED OUT, so much so, I felt the need to write about it which is what brought me to writing this post.

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In regards to my previous drawings. I will eventually paint the first drawing that is on watercolor paper. The second that is on mixed media paper I plan to complete in graphite. I have a feeling I’m not done with drawing my elfin girl and expect she will turn up again and again. But… most of all, I have a love of INK and want to play more with it.

Other thoughts:

It may seem strange for me to still be working on week one of Life Book 2018. I see some people doing the lessons as soon as they are released. I started that way for Life Book 2017 which was fine if all I wanted to do was copy the lesson as close as I could with what was being taught. This worked well for the first half of the year. Starting a new job set me back a bit but I also realized, though I was learning by doing the lessons as they were taught, I needed to explore more on my own.

Copying exactly as a teacher instructs doesn’t allow for experimentation. It also doesn’t allow much for failures from making my own choices therefore I don’t learn what works and what doesn’t work. I don’t want to be copying a teacher’s styles and techniques my whole life so I need to learn what works or doesn’t work for me.

When I first considered Life Book as a course of instruction, I did so because I wanted to use art as a way to help me. It is hard to look at one’s life, thoughts and emotions and feel like one is out of control or felt as though they had wasted the majority of their life. I had so many feelings, not just about my past but what had transpired in the past few years, that I needed to find a way to process it all.

Most people who felt as I do or had gone through similar experiences would probably see a therapist. Believe me I considered it. However, when I was diagnosed with cancer and started the process of fighting it and recovery, I decided to see a therapist. I took my daughter with me for I felt she would benefit as well. This whole situation was terrifying to her. At no time during that session did I feel like this person would be able to help me or my daughter. I wasn’t expecting miracles in just one session but I did expect some effort on this person’s part to help us or to just give us an indication of how they might be able to help. In the end, the only thing we walked out with was the understanding that I was already doing what I needed to do. With this in mind I started looking into art as a way to help me do it even better. This is when I discovered Life Book.

I haven’t stopped with just Life Book. I look at other courses as well. I look at them to give me one of two things. Either they will help me learn how to art journal in a way which will help me work through my emotional journey, or they will help me increase my skills and gain further knowledge in various art techniques. The wonderful thing about Life Book is it does both and introduces me to a lot of wonderful teachers.

Last year, because my main focus was on just copying the art as close to exacting as I could, I didn’t learn as much as I had hoped to in the area of processing my emotions when working on my page. What I was processing was only the technical aspects of the techniques being taught. I wanted to change that. I didn’t want to do art, just to do art, I wanted to find ways to have my art and my emotions come together and express themselves on the page.

In consideration of this, I decided to chose a word for the year. I had never done this before. I decided to do this to see if it helped bring focus into my life and help provide direction. For 2018, I chose balance as my word for this year to try and bring more of a balance between the emotional art journey and the technical art journey. It also has the added benefit of helping me to focus on finding balance in all areas of my life.

Knowing this, I knew I couldn’t rush through my lessons. Let me explain something.

I have always wished I could think faster on my feet. Wishing it though has never resulted in it actually happening. Instead of wishing for it, I decided to understand myself better, which meant being honest with myself. I have no idea how people view me unless they tell me. During my life, I have had people tell me I am rather intelligent. While this might be true, I have to refrain from believing my inner critic when he/she tells me I’m not smart at all. After all, if I were smart I would think faster on my feet and be able to respond to people in the way I wish I could. That is if I would believe what my inner critic says.

I, however, have come to understand, First, I AM intelligent. Second, my intelligence demands that I take my time to consider what I know or don’t know, and sometimes if I need to know more, it requires research. Third, I am also not quick to understand my own emotions and sometimes it takes me a while to dig into them to understand what they are and what triggered them. Because of this, almost every situation I’m in, I am not quick to respond because my way of doing things is, first to understand what I am feeling, why I feel that way and to take time to think about it and not jump into quick conclusions or decisions. People wanting quick responses and quick answers get frustrated with me, and yes, I get the impression that they might think I’m dumb but this is because they do not know me and I don’t always think to say that I need to think about this before I answer. I will admit that sometimes I over think things, and sometimes it is difficult for people to understand why I need to think about something that should only require a simple answer.

There is no surprise that this is how I approach my own art. We are at the end of January and to know that week one has taken me four weeks and I’m still not complete isn’t a concern for me. In the past it might have been but that would have been before I took the time to do my own self-analysis to understand why I do things as I do or why I react to things as I do and so forth. Doing my own self-analysis doesn’t mean I am always right. In fact, there are times when I need to re-evaluate because something doesn’t add up to what I had previous thought about myself. There isn’t anything wrong with that and I am sure therapists are having to do this all the time with their clients. There is just no way someone can know everything there is to know about another person and besides, we humans whether we want to admit it or not, are changing all the time. I will be the first to admit that this is even true for myself.

I have no doubt there would be a lot of people who would argue this point. Their egos would want them to believe they know themselves implicitly. I love the part in The Matrix where Neo is told “Know thyself”. On one hand we already know everything there is to know about ourselves while on the other hand, we know absolutely nothing about who we really are.  Neo walks out of the room, so confused, believing he isn’t what people believe him to be. He doesn’t believe in himself. He doesn’t believe it until circumstances put him into a position where he has to reach inside of himself to be what he needs to be, proving to him that he has always had it inside of himself to be whatever he needs to be.

This is true for all of us. Sometimes what we need to be isn’t at all what we think we should be. It is no different for me in my art. I think my art should be realistic, not whimsical or even be mandalas. If someone had asked me back in high school what kind of artist I would be, I would have said my art would be ‘realism’. I had never heard of mandalas or at least I don’t remember hearing about them back then so I would not have even considered myself to be a mandala artist. And yet, that is what I have become. I also lean more towards whimsical at this stage which I would never have thought possible because back in high school I had trouble drawing anything from my imagination.

Why am I writing about all of this? First, because I need to explore the depths of these things for myself and writing is how I do that. Second, because this is just an example of how my mind works and why I am not quick on rebuttals or responses in various situations. I have to THINK about whatever it is that requires my response. My thought processes are not short. They can be long and involved and writing helps me to work my way through my thought processes.

I use the same process for my artwork. Consequently, I don’t expect immediate answers or results. I don’t sit down and immediately make decisions on what I’m going to create and then create it. Oh sometimes I do but most times like the Garden Fairy, I need to go through this process.

I knew when I first watched Tam’s Garden Fairy lesson that I would draw a female face but I knew it wouldn’t be a copy of the face she drew. I knew from my meditation that my animal would be a dragon. But that is all I knew. It took a while of thinking about my dragon to understand I didn’t want to copy a dragon I found online. To draw him took research of looking at various pictures then setting them aside to start sketching on my own and only referring to pictures once in a while to get shape and form properly in perspective. It took more contemplation on what I wanted to represent my garden.

The third reason I write about all of this is hopefully so other artists who are new to exploring their own abilities learn that there isn’t anything wrong with taking their time to complete a lesson. The wonderful thing about online classes, especially ones where you can download them or have lifetime access to them is this, you can do them in your own time, at your own speed and repeat them as often as you like AND do them in whatever form you want to do them in. Classroom instruction doesn’t give you this flexibility, nor do the online instructions which give you only a limited time access and no downloadable content. My advice especially for beginners is choose courses wisely and take advantage of YouTube’s free content.

I want to write about one other thing. I know this is getting long but after writing the above and having a break to go off and work and think about other things, I had this thought come to me. I don’t PHYSICALLY practice my artwork every day. I do THINK about my artwork EVERY day. If I’m not physically practicing, I am viewing other people’s artwork, reading about it or watching videos, or thinking about how I might go about doing some technique or trying different things. I might consider in my mind, what if, I do this, or what if, I do something else, or what if, I combine this and that. In my mind I’ll try and imagine what might be the result of doing that ‘what if’ and in some cases it might take me to my art table to see if what I imagined is in fact what happens. Most times though I’m thinking about sketching or painting, especially watercolor and how I blend, or push the paint around. In my mind, I’m creating a number of art pieces.

Here is where some people might consider me crazy, but it is a proven fact that athletes do improve from just meditating on running or doing whatever physical activity they want to do more than if they just practice it physically. I believe this is also true for artists. If it weren’t true then I could never explain how I improved in my portrait sketches after months of not physically doing any drawing and only thinking or using my imagination and creating sketches mentally. So don’t underestimate the power of the mind. If you don’t have the time to physically do the work, I bet you have plenty of mentally free time where you can do the work in your imagination. Waiting in lines at the grocery store for instance, or waiting in a doctor’s office when you don’t have a small travel pack of art materials to play around with. Or waiting in traffic. Or walking the dog. I could go on and on. My point here is I probably create more in my head than I do in physical substance and there isn’t anything wrong with that. In fact,  I believe it is key to learning and becoming a better artist. I just can’t stop…  I do it all the time, sometimes even in my sleep.

What do you think? Let me know. Or just write a comment to let me know you were here and read my post.

My Creative Beginning to 2018….

I ended 2017 with the intent of adding more color and art to my handwritten journal. I was doing ink drawings and adding some of my tangle drawings to the journal then writing about what I was creating which sometimes included comments about my life. This means my journal was generally black and white. I wanted color too.  So… in December I started using some cheap markers and trying to get creative on my pages.

I added calendars for the months since I started my job the end of July using various colored markers. Working is now a major part and joy of my life so I wanted it in my journal. On December 31st, I added an acrylic wash background using neon colors since they are very transparent. I wanted to see the lines on the right page to use as guidelines for my writing. I can’t write in a straight line unless I have lines to guide me. I ended the year with a celebration page for the good things that happened in 2017. I’m glad I did this because I tend to remember the bad things instead of the good things.

I still wish at times that I didn’t have to work but who wouldn’t when they love to do art?! To have nothing else to do but art would be such an adventure. I had that for a little over a year. Other than having to look for a job at the same time, my days were full of art and I loved every moment of it. It also helped with the anxiety of not finding a job.

I am surprised by how much I enjoy my job. I interact with people every day. Two days before Christmas I was asked to hand out chocolates to the customers. It was the best job EVER! I have always considered myself an introvert but doing this job and handing out the chocolates taught me that I can interact with strangers and not die in the process… lol.

I am also a Gemini. So to find this out about myself isn’t surprising. I have many times in my life seen two sides of myself which are in complete opposition of one another. There have been a couple people who have commented about this as well because of seeing me in different environments which reflect those oppositions. The best thing about this job is when I walk out the door at work, I leave it at the door. And when I walk in the door at work, I pick it back up. In my previous job of 33 years, the job went with me no matter where I was, which meant no breaks from it not even on vacations.

So yes, my daily life sometimes ends up in my handwritten journal which was originally intended to be just for writing about my artwork. That means it creeps into this blog as well which was also meant to be just about my art. No matter how hard you try, life does cross over into our art.

For 2018, I’m continuing in my journal from 2017, this is my first page which begins my chapter for 2018. I’m about 1/4 of the way into the journal. I created this today before I knew the group, I joined on Facebook has daily words for inspiration. The words for the first two days in 2018 are EXPRESS and VESSEL, so these words didn’t make it into my journal page.

I was exhausted after an 8 hour shift at work yesterday. I had no energy for doing anything creative on the 1st. This is also my first try at doing zendangles. I want to try and find balance this year in everything including in my art especially, between taking classes and doing my own art, so I’m trying things like this on my own.

IMG_1227I started the page by drawing in guidelines for my words using pencil, then added the words also in pencil. Then I added the background with an acrylic paint wash in neon colors. Once the paint dried, I went over the letters with cheap water based markers and the dangles are gel pens.

I had intended to erase the guidelines but forgot I wouldn’t be able to erase them after I put acrylic wash over them, so I improvised and went over the lines with gel pen then added the dangles. The hardest part was trying to figure out what patterns to use on the dangles. I have found I’m not very good at creating designs or patterns on my own. Hopefully, I’ll get better at it with practice.

In this journal, the left page is blank for artwork and the right page is lined for writing. I use a wash so I can still see the lines. I do artwork on the left and the right is for writing which I do over the acrylic wash with gel pen. I know I won’t be able to do this every day, however, I plan on doing something artistic whenever I want to write in my journal. If I have a lot to write about I generally do that on my computer and just do highlights in my handwritten journal.

As I mentioned, the first two words for this year are EXPRESS and VESSEL. Doing my journaling this way I hope to EXPRESS myself artistically more in 2018. Technically I consider my journals (both physical and digital) my VESSELS which contains many parts of me and my life. I want my physical journal to be more of a visual journal. Sometimes I include pictures of what I have created in my digital journal. This year I hope to add more pictures of my art into my digital journal so I have a record of what I have created.

I still plan on doing my ink drawings. My thoughts have been about wanting to incorporate my love of black ink with my love of color. This is something I’ll need to play around with this year. I also want to explore different ways of using ink in my drawings. So far I have just used a pen. I want to explore using a brush.

I enjoyed the dangling bits on this page even though it is obvious a beginner has done it. The challenge I had was in creating the different dangle patterns. I tried not to copy patterns I saw from other pictures but in the end I found myself doing just that. I need to find better balance and I didn’t have enough open space between the words, but that is okay. It was fun to do for the first time and is something I can play with while sitting down recovering from a long day at work.

On another note, I did another lesson from Life Book 2017, week 33, “Bloom into Spontaneous Collage” with Shelley Klammer. Her explanation of how she gathers collage materials for here spontaneous collage page helped me tremendously on creating this page. I am not a fan of collage but after doing this page, I realized, I do like collage just not so much in my artwork with paints. I sometimes have difficulty with my paints lifting.  This type of collage was fun to do. I may find myself doing something like this from time to time. I just don’t have much collage material.

IMG_1225Her method of doing these collage pages is more about intuitive collage. It isn’t about designing a page before you start or even picking a subject to collage about before selecting your collage pieces, which I think is why I liked it.

Doing it intuitively brings information from your subconscious to your conscious mind. Until I did this collage I was sure I didn’t have any dreams left. But this collage ended up being a dream board of sorts. Without thinking about it, I found myself selecting pictures that had some symbolic meaning to what I wanted for me and my daughter. It helped me to realize my dreams were not dead, they were just buried.

I find my dreams too hard to keep to the forefront of my thoughts. Since being laid off from my previous job of 33 years, I felt my dreams were impossible and it has become very difficult to think about them without sinking into depression. So learning those dreams are still alive was a relief while at the same time it hurts to realize they may never come true, at least not without some major changes in my life.

In Life Book, I work on single sheets of paper. At the end of Life Book, Tam shows how she binds her pages into a book. I have been considering this and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so a few months ago I looked up alternatives. I looked up alternatives because I didn’t want to permanently change my pages by adhering them to each other or to other paper in order to bind them into a book. I landed upon an idea I hope will work.

I want to create a book box for storing my artwork from Life Book. That way I can store the pages as loose pages and be able to take them out if I want to. This way too, I can use the back of my pages for a journal of sorts about the class for that particular piece. The issue I have is my pages are 9″ x 12″ and the chipboard I have is 12″ x 12″. I’m not sure I can create a book box that will hold the pages using the chipboard I have. If not, I may have to buy a different medium to create the book box. I’m thinking I could use hardboard which I can purchase at my local hardware store. I’ll just need to learn how to cut it down to the size I need. I have time to figure that all out since I’m only on week 34 of Life Book 2017.

It is my hope that this idea will work out well. If it does, then I will be able to use it for storing any other artwork I do on loose sheets of paper. There are other options but they all have their drawbacks. This one seems to be the one that will reassure me that my pages will stay intact without having to alter them in some way for storage.

I am glad 2017 is over. I want to move on and let go of the difficulty of the past couple of years. I am grateful for the time I had to bring art back into my life. The time I had without a job helped me to cement this need into my life and make it a priority so when I did get a job it wouldn’t be set aside again. These last two years have been a time of adjustment, of learning how to alter my priorities and choose what was important to me and how to make room for what is important.

Up until now I have never chosen a word to focus on for the year. I tried New Year’s resolutions several times to no avail. I’ve had years of no focus at all. For 2018, I decided to choose a word and see what happens. My choice is BALANCE and each month I plan on choosing another word to focus on for the month which supports my focus of BALANCE. For January, my word is BOUNDARIES. It is my hope, to focus on them, journal about them, research and then make choices I can incorporate into my life.

I’ve had issues with setting boundaries my whole life. In some of my art classes the topic of boundaries has come up so I decided it was time to learn about them and set some of my own. I know I have some boundaries but they have been arbitrary. It is time to put some reason behind them and make them a solid part of how I live my life.

This may seem strange to some people to think someone my age doesn’t have firm boundaries by now. It even sounds strange to me. It is something I have come to understand to be a source of issues I have run into in my life. Since deciding this, I have found myself dreaming about situations that reflect these issues I’ve had in my life. It is like my subconscious is showing me what I should have done in those situations instead of what I did do. It is showing me the boundaries I need to set. I find this rather interesting.

I sometimes think I should have been a psychologist or research scientist because of these remarkable things I notice about my mind and how it interacts with me and my universe. I notice it even more now. I’m not sure if that is a product of allowing my creativity to grow through art or if it is just this particular time in my life which finds this all very fascinating. Maybe a mixture of both. It is so very easy to discard these subtle truths as our imagination conjuring up something that could only be in a science fiction tale. I, however, prefer to believe in the impossible. Maybe that will carry over into other aspects of my life as well and I’ll find myself believing my dreams really can come true.

 

 

Balance, a watercolor art journal page…

I never thought watercolor would be an art medium I would want to pursue. I’m in the year long course called Book of Days 2017. Effy Wild is the creator. For the most part, the lessons supplied are by Effy. This year she has decided to have a guest instructor, Sarah Trumpp. She has commissioned Sarah to give watercolor lessons which are spread out throughout the year. The end of March was the beginners water color lesson. Following Sarah’s instructions, I was able to produce the below art journal page, totally using Daler Rowney Simple Watercolours, with the exception of the stamping of the letters at the end.

Like all my artwork, there is always a point where I look at it and think it is a mess and will never come close to achieving the results I hoped to achieve when I started out. This of course is my inner critic pushing me to do better. As long as I don’t give up, I usually learn something, and if I’m lucky, I achieve even more than I had hoped.

This is the case with the watercolor art journal page. I absolutely love it. I love how vivid the rocks turned out against the soft background.

In everything I do, I don’t just stay tight to the instructions given. I generally venture off by adding in my own ingredients, whether it is artwork, or cooking, the outcomes can end up the same. Sometimes, well, it can end in a disaster. Most times, following my instincts pays off. This was no different.

In time, I know I will be able to produce my own piece of art, that is not inspired and achieved by an instructor led class. I have two drawings awaiting paint. My options for the mediums I can possibly use has just increased. I have yet to decide what I’ll use. That is the wonderful nature of mixed media. I don’t have to stick to just one medium. If I want to, I can mix several mediums in one piece of art.

I’m looking forward to seeing what I might choose.

~Patti

 

balance wm copy